Back in the USSR: The Russian Rock Revolution

While the state-run record label Melodiya controlled much of what was popular on the Russian airwaves, many young (rather rebellious) Russians began to fall in love with Western rock n’ roll. Influenced by bands like The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple and especially The Beatles (although Paul McCartney was denied entry into the country throughout the 1980s), Russian folk artists or “bards,” as well as newly forming rock groups began to cover some Western hits, and finally pen some of their own. As much of this music was “unspoken and unacknowledged,” it took awhile for rock music to become accepted in Soviet Russia.

Tatyana Nazarenko: Dance Floor (1977) Rock music spread slowly but inexorably across the Soviet Union, helped by tape recorders and other ingenious homemade recorders. The surest sign of its permanence was when it replaced traditional dance music in villages and provincial towns. Source: Irkutsk Regional Art Museum. 1998.

Tatyana Nazarenko: Dance Floor (1977)
Rock music spread slowly but inexorably across the Soviet Union, helped by tape recorders and other ingenious homemade recorders. The surest sign of its permanence was when it replaced traditional dance music in villages and provincial towns.
Source: Irkutsk Regional Art Museum. 1998.

So many of the popular Russian songs of the time were written declaring one’s “love for the Motherland” or “love for the Communist party.” Artists including David Tukhmanov, Bulat Okudzhava and Vladimir Vysotskii became well-known as their lyrics slowly began to break this mold. Informal concerts also began to take place in apartment complexes and university halls, and bootleg copies of albums were being produced; it was clear that this music was taking a hold on the Russian youth.

(“My Address is the Soviet Union” by David Tukhmanov and V. Kharitonov)

In the late 1970s, Russian bands were starting to conform to the heavier sounds coming from the West, as opposed to the more folk-influenced music of the Bards. Russian band, Mashina Vremeni (in English, “Time MachineSmilie: ;) started gaining more popularity around this time, in particular after they began writing rock songs in Russian. Here is a link to their song, “Povorot.”

Mashina Vremeni in their heyday. (Source:http://www.mirinform.ru/)

Mashina Vremeni in their heyday. (Source:http://www.mirinform.ru/)

The youth of the time period, as the New York Times put it,  “demanded a break from the past.” Rock n’ roll was a way of loosening ties to the strict Communist past, and of instigating change in this revolutionary period.

(Even the Beatles knew that Russia was a state destined to be influenced by rock n’ roll…Smilie: ;)

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Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melodiya

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/paul-mccartney-finally-back-in-the-ussr/238263.html

http://www.krugosvet.ru/enc/kultura_i_obrazovanie/muzyka/ROK-MUZIKA_V_ROSSII.html

http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1973rock&Year=1973

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_rock

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mashina_Vremeni

http://search.proquest.com/hnpnewyorktimes/docview/110495248/A8B2B0A11AC4A7FPQ/5?accountid=14826

Category(s): Uncategorized

6 Responses to Back in the USSR: The Russian Rock Revolution

  1. I love how Western music broke into the Soviet Union before its collapse, although I wonder why the Kremlin allowed it to happen. As a lover of thrash metal, there was a Russian group called Aspid (Аспид) that released only one album through bootleg copies during the early 1990’s, right before the collapse. Months before the collapse, Metallica put on a free concert to an audience of more than 1,00,000 people at Moscow’s Tushino Airfield:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_W7wqQwa-TU

    • Terrific video of the Metallica concert! Did you notice how the police were rocking out with the crowd they were supposed to be controlling? Also, how did you come to be such a fan of Russian thrash metal?

  2. Good post! I love the variety of sources you used, from the videos to the New York Times article. I knew absolutely nothing about Soviet rock music before reading this post, but after reading, I now know a lot on the subject. Much like the comment above me, I think this begs the question of why the Soviet government still allowed this Western music into the country pre-collapse.

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  4. Good post! I love the variety of sources you used, from the videos to the New York Times article.

  5. Terrific video of the Metallica concert! Did you notice how the police were rocking out with the crowd they were supposed to be controlling? Also, how did you come to be such a fan of Russian thrash metal?

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